NWSL Reportedly Expanding To San Francisco, Boston And Utah; Record $50M Franchise Fee
NWSL takes root in new cities at record prices.
According to Jessica Toonkel and Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal, three new teams are expected to be formed in Utah, the Bay Area and Boston — the last two of which will be The team is expected to pay a record $50 million expansion fee.
The expansion’s price reflects the league’s growth, with franchise fees reportedly between $2 million and $5 million for 2020 in Los Angeles and San Diego.
The Bay Area and Utah teams will start in 2024, according to the Wall Street Journal. Boston won’t start until later. Their addition will bring the league’s total to 15 teams.
The Bay Area team will be financed by an investor group that includes a private equity firm and former U.S. Women’s National Team players Brandi Chastain, Aly Wagner, Leslie Osborne and Danielle Slaton.
The Boston group is backed by a women’s investor group, including the daughter of Celtics co-owner Robert Epstein. After the Breakers disbanded in 2018, the team will bring women’s professional soccer back to Boston.
Utah has also hosted a team before. The Utah Royals are part of the NWSL from 2018-2020. The team moved to Kansas City in December 2020 after the players reported racist language used by the then-team owner. NWSL leaders agree that Utah’s franchise could resume at a later date for a fixed fee.
NWSL wins more
The news comes after the November 2022 NWSL Championship between the Portland Thorns and the Kansas City Current announced a 71 percent increase in viewership over 2021. With 915,000 spectators, it was the most watched game in NWSL history.
The league has also seen an increase in player contracts. In February 2022, the Washington Spirit signed Trinity Rodman to a four-year deal reportedly worth more than $1.1 million. At age 19, she became the highest-paid NWSL player in league history.
More recently, Los Angeles’ Angel City FC made history earlier this month when they selected 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 league draft. The pick made Thompson the first high school player to be drafted at the position. Angel City FC spared no expense to introduce Thompson. It acquired the No. 1 pick from NJ/NY Gotham FC in a deal that traded its natural No. 5 pick and 2024 second-round pick and $200,000 in allocations to the Thorns in exchange for Yazmeen Ryan, who then went to Gotham with $250,000.
All of this comes after the league signs its first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 2022. The league’s financial growth will likely be reflected in the next agreement, which will be agreed after the 2026 season.
The NWSL continues to grow.